Weird West is an immersive sim developed by WolfEye Studios in which you play as the Passenger, a hooded figure tasked with inhabiting the bodies of five people for reasons unknown. Each person you inhabit has their own journey through a dark fantasy version of the West, in which they attempt things like recovering a kidnapped lover or stopping a supernatural creature from destroying the West.
Like other immersive sims, the game gives you an impressive amount of freedom in how you approach situations. For one, the game uses an RPG-like quest system, where you often have the option to solve quests in multiple ways, kill quest-givers, or betray the people you were meant to help.
This freedom extends to more granular problems too. You can pick up and throw objects, jump through windows, and climb on roofs, and these things make the world feel alive. You can often blow up doors, use stealth or pick locks to steal the item you need, and even take down enemies non-lethally. But you’re bound to eventually end up in a gunfight, the main form of gameplay.
The shooting is separate from the camera and is activated by holding down the aim button, then firing. You can unlock a number of abilities per character and weapon type that can be activated using action points, and there’s a universal ability that allows you to slow time during a combat roll to rain down bullets before you hit the ground.
Even in combat, there’s a degree of chaos and flexibility. There are explosive barrels, oil that you can spill to set on fire, poison barrels, water that can douse fire but be electrified, and more systems that can bounce off one another in amusing ways. When it comes together, it’s liberating to form a plan, put it into action, and have it go hilariously wrong somehow.
Unfortunately, despite your low health, the core gunplay is powerful, so many fights don’t require the use of these cool systems. Luckily, most battles tend to settle somewhere between the worst and best the game has to offer. It’s rare that the combat feels transcendent, but it’s regularly great.
Instead of experience points, finding certain objects in the world upgrades your abilities, which makes exploration (and theft) feel important and fun. Basic actions don’t have to be unlocked, which gives you a lot of freedom, but you can get even more freedom by scouring the environments.
The music never gets old because of its infrequency, mostly staying ambient until you get into combat, and the rest of the sound design works well to keep the dark fantasy western tone of the game. The visuals are uniformly good and cohesive, presenting the Western vibe without being repetitive.
Dialogue is kept to succinct bursts of information I actually cared about. The story is grim without being pointlessly cruel, your choices matter to the story, and these things combined to make me engage with the darkness of the story. Sure, the story features cannibalism, abuse, and other terrible things, but it lets you interact with those elements in a way that makes them more than shock value.
Sometimes it’s made clear that there’s an alternative solution to a quest, but it’s difficult to find that solution, to the point that I had to stop after twenty minutes of searching. Puzzles meanwhile provide a good change of pace but aren’t a high point aside from some thematically great puzzles in the late game.
If you like the dark fantasy western vibe and immersive sims, I’d recommend this one. If you don’t like the vibe, hate top-down shooting or non-voice-acted dialogue, or are looking for a game with strong open-world progression rather than emphasis on a linear quest, I’d skip this one.
Weird West releases on March 31 for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Game Pass for $39.99.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Weird West.